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How the hipster can save the monk (and vice versa) | America Magazine
"That vision is spreading. Just north of New York City, a start-up company has built cabins in the woods that are advertised as retreat spaces for writing or taking a break from the grind of city life. It sounds and looks like a hermitage to me. The only thing missing is God."



"What does this mean for you, members of religious communities who might be reading this? A few things. Consider how closely hipster ideals, as portrayed in magazines and advertisements, now mirror central monastic ideals—simplicity, authenticity, community, self-sufficiency, contemplation. You have rules, long histories and theologies that illuminate these ideals and shape your daily rhythms. Hipsters do not.

One way to engage the world might be to help hipsters—I write as one of them—understand why we find it gratifying to make our own bread, tend our own gardens or brew our own beer. What is it about bodily practices and habituation that speaks to our souls? We know the slowness of our hobbies does something to us, but we don’t quite know what it is.

To learn, we will have to become aware of your existence and your gifts. So you ought to photograph your community and publish those photographs on Instagram. This practice offers an opportunity to meet people where they are—which, by and large, is not anywhere close to a contemplative religious life.

The average young adult spends over four hours of each day on her phone, and she checks social media channels an average of 17 times per day. Further, young people are averse to speaking about religion explicitly. They lack the imagination and vocabulary even to broach the subject of monastic life. But they do possess a highly developed visual grammar and are interested in stylized photographs of agriculture, cooking, handicraft, drinks and books.

Further, contemplative orders should reinsert themselves into the public sphere as the keepers and guardians of real mindfulness. The mindfulness moment that America is having is marred by an extreme sense of self-centeredness. But perhaps mindfulness is contemplation’s shadow on the cave wall. Of course, cultivating a contemplative life requires a lifetime of struggle, a challenging proposition in our age of instant gratification. But a simple—admittedly gimmicky—change of language, from contemplation to “monastic mindfulness,” could generate an audience of people willing to read your articles or attend your retreats. You may not need or even want that audience, but they need you.

All of which is to say, you have a fascinating preaching opportunity, and when this bizarre cultural moment shifts, you will lose that opportunity. So start an Instagram account. Take advantage of the fact that your daily lives entail much of what the authenticity hounds are clamoring after. Take photos of your gardens, your chapels, your candles, your table spread with a feast day dinner.

Perhaps you have an industrial kitchen, buy your food at Sam’s Club and haven’t had a butcher block table in 50 years. Not to worry. Photograph your icons and your books. Document your community as it prays or goes for walks or enjoys recreation. (As we know from Paweł Pawlikowski and Paolo Sorrentino, cassocks and habits are very cinematic.) Tag these photographs with a hashtag like #monklife or #nunlife. Slowly but surely, you will start to develop a following. The Benedictine Monks of Meath, Ireland, who run a wonderful Instagram, have over 900 followers. That may not sound like a lot when many middle schoolers have thousands, but it is a solid start.

Finally, if you belong to an order that supports itself through handicraft or food production, you should market your wares under the hipster umbrella. Los Angeles’s Ace Hotel, the popular hipster hotel chain, is ornamented with handmade leather knickknacks and woolen blankets available for purchase at a hefty price. Maybe those blankets could be woven by your community? In the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, a hip men’s store sells “Incense of the West,” which smells suspiciously like church incense. Perhaps that store could be selling your incense instead? Write to hipster boutiques and high-end urban specialty food shops and see if they will stock your products. Your community will make some money, but more important, it will garner interest and curiosity.

A notable American example of monastic engagement can be found in Spencer, Mass., where the Cistercians at St. Joseph Abbey, worried about the costs of running their community, recently started brewing the first Trappist beer in the United States. So many fans were clamoring to visit the abbey and tour the brewery that this past summer the brewery opened its doors to the general public for one day.

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Of course, the compatibility of Catholic and hipster visions of authenticity breaks down at a certain point. The Catholic Church, by definition, runs counter to the ideas of exclusivity that hipsterdom associates with authenticity. The church is for everyone. Nonetheless, in tapping into the current hipster lifestyle craze, you have a chance to share what a truly authentic life looks like: a life grounded in God.

Before you go all-in, however, a word of caution. To introduce Instagram or Snapchat into your community could threaten your own attention span. Smartphones and social media might distract the mind from prayer and contemplation. If you are a cloistered community, employing social media or engaging the world through mindfulness presents an implicit threat to your cloistered lifestyle and your vocation. You are no doubt well aware of these threats.

But as St. Augustine writes in De Doctrina Christiana: “We were not wrong to learn the alphabet just because they say that the god Mercury was its patron, nor should we avoid justice and virtue just because they dedicated temples to justice and virtue.” I am not advocating packing smartphones in your cassocks and habits. I am suggesting that you wade into the stream with care. For at the moment, the world needs your wisdom and your model of the good life almost as much as it needs your prayers."
monasticism  monks  mindfulness  hispters  davidmichael  2017  cv  authenticity  catholicism  lifesyle  craft  slow  socialmedia  body  practice  ritual  habituation  slowness  instagram  contemplation  handmade  bespoke  smallbatch  bodies 
july 2017 by robertogreco

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